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Leupold BX-4 McKinley HD

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: February/23/2013 at 14:57
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This review will cover both the 8x42 and 10x42 binoculars.  The binoculars were supplied by Leupold.  I will add that they contacted me. 

First, there seems some confusion over prices as they are currently listed from $519.99 to $759.99, no two places seemingly with the same price.  They will sell for $599.99 for the 8x42 and $619.99 for the 10x42.  They come with Leupold’s world famous bomb proof warranty.  They told me it was a legal department requirement they use the term limited lifetime, to seemingly place the warranty coverage to the original purchaser.  While you can go online to register your Leupold, they will never ask you for any proof of purchase.  I can state from long personal use of Leupold products, that they take a backseat to no one in their service.  If you need your McKinley repaired, Leupold has state of the art facilities and trained people, so they can take it apart and fix it. 

These showed up at an opportune time.  We had our local big show, the Winter Wings Festival here last weekend, so there were chances to get them side by side to several competitive binoculars. 

The first thing that will hit you right between the eyes when you open the box is their unquestionable similarity to the ZEN Prime HD. On one hand they seem to be the same basic binocular.  On the other hand, they also have significant differences.  It is basically the same size and general outline as the recently discontinued Leupold Gold Rings.  It is however, some four ounces lighter, but if you have held a Gold Ring you have a good idea of how the McKinley will feel. 

I’m waiting to hear back from Leupold on my query about an x32 version of this binocular.  I’ve got a couple of QC questions I need to ask them too. 

Image Performance: 

This has a very sharp, high contrast image, with only a very slightly warm bias.  Resolution leaves nothing for my eyes to desire.  For a roof prism binocular, the apparent depth of field and 3-D effect is first rate.  Colors seem very natural.  The warm tint is not visible to the eye looking through this binocular.  It only shows looking backwards though the instrument at a bright, pure white surface. 

Field Performance: 

The binocular presents a wide, bright, relatively deep, and flat field of view.  The binocular I have first hand experience with that is brighter is the Zeiss FL.  While not necessarily FL bright, it is almost still too bright.  It has snowed here the first two days of the week, and the sun is now out, and the world here is bright. Yesterday when I scanned our black cattle on their newly snow white pasture, I had to crank the eye cups down and use the binoculars with my sunglasses. Low light performance is very good.   Glare is nicely controlled.  While I realize I am not the best person to comment on color fringing, I can induce none, no matter what target I use.  I can only get it in out of focus situations. 

The edges here are quite sharp, not perfect, but as good as you can find for less than $2,000+. The field is also very flat.  I can see a bit of a hint of curvature.  It is more of a peripheral sensation for me.  As I look to the edge to see it, my eyes evidently accommodate and it goes away.  So we are dealing with a very wide, sweet spot at least 90% of the field, and very immersive view.  It is a very easy view too. There is no hint for me of Rolling ball either. 

Ergonomic Performance: 

This is a large binocular and its size will likely lessen its appeal for some people to some degree.  I have pretty big hands, and they are about right for me.  They have a large diameter ocular design similar to the ZEN Prime HD.  Leupold has gotten at least the start of a fix here, particularly on the 8x.  The eye cups on both the McKinley’s have more taper than the Prime.  The 8x has a longer eye cup, and the edge of the eye cup is more rounded than the 10x.  Both feel better to eye and nose than the Prime, and the 8x McKinley is an improvement over the 10x.  The eye relief gives them some leeway in the eye cup design than the 10x, but Leupold told me they are working on getting the same eye cup design on both.  The ergonomic impact oft he slight eye cup redesign is substantial. 

The McKinley focuses counterclockwise to infinity.  The focus movement is, I think, a decent balance of easy to move and stiff enough to stay where you put it until you move it.  The focus moves through just less than 1.5 turns.  I can stand up and focus on the tip of my shoes, about 4’.  One turn takes the focus from there to 25’.  Another one quarter turn takes the focus to infinity.  There is one quarter turn past infinity.  Cold temperatures do not seem to greatly affect wheel travel.  There is a typical right eye diopter arrangement.  It does not lock in place and there are no click stops, but it is stiff and should not pose a threat to move without user input. 

There is a nearly imperceptible slack movement when changing focus directions.  It is less than one degree.  I do not see it unless I stop looking through the binocular and concentrate on nothing but focus wheel tension.  I do not notice it in field use of the binocular.  At some point in my life, I would have assumed nobody else would have paid any attention to this either, but not anymore.  It is my opinion that the McKinley has a smooth and highly usable focus system. 

This binocular gives off the feel of being built like the proverbial tank.  It is something that looks and feels like the rugged product Leupold tries to produce.  This has more armor around it than the Prime, and also has thumb indents. 

The McKinley looks like you could knock it off the pickup tailgate into the weeds with a baseball bat, pick it up, clean it off and go use it. 

How does it compare: 

ZEN Prime HD 

The obvious and frankly unavoidable impression is that this is the same binocular as the ZEN Prime HD. Having said that, I don’t know the source of the McKinley.  It has some differences to the Prime.  The eye cup design is one difference.  The field is sharpe

Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: February/23/2013 at 15:12
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Thanks Steve.
 
Gotta love a crowded market!
 
You need to check out the Meostar HDs.  They are excellent.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: February/23/2013 at 16:47
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OK, the Meopta HD are likely pretty good.  Your say so is good enough for me there Smile.  However, for my part of the world, they might as well not exist.  Ditto for the Nikon EDG.  They both are on my short list of glass I want to see, but as you say, the market is crowded, and I'm likely not bending as much effort as I might have in very recent past times.  Besides which, I'm an 8x guy.

If a Swarovision or SLC-HD won't make the McKinley run and hide, neither will a Meopta.  As a side note the McKinley is $400 less than the Meopta, and Leupold stuff is usually easy enough for an average consumer to find.  Plus warranty and service second to nobody.

As a side note the McKinley is easily as solidly built as the Meostar too.  Choices, choices....
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: February/23/2013 at 17:42
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Where are the McKinleys made???
 
China or Japan???
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: February/23/2013 at 18:00
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china
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: February/23/2013 at 18:09
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HMMMM--Thanks!
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: February/23/2013 at 18:40
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Originally posted by Silverseeker Silverseeker wrote:

HMMMM--Thanks!

I wonder where you expected?  Leaving politics out, Chines optics are now damned good .  Glass like this from Europe with a Swarovski, Leica, or Zeiss badge would be another $1,00 at a minimum.   Out of a top end Japanese facility they would be twice what they are priced.  Companies have to stay in business and sales of $1,000++ optics are not bottom line makers.  Those that sell the high price stuff have other facets of company expertise that makes their $$.

If these sell like the quality optic they are Leupold might go to making them here.  That same deal quality wise, assembled here is at least $1,000.  That gets right back to whether or not you will pay $1,000-1,200 for a binocular with a Leupold label.  Or a Vortex Label, or a Bushnell label, or other US company label.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: February/23/2013 at 20:33
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Originally posted by Klamath Klamath wrote:

If a Swarovision or SLC-HD won't make the McKinley run and hide, neither will a Meopta.  As a side note the McKinley is $400 less than the Meopta, and Leupold stuff is usually easy enough for an average consumer to find.  Plus warranty and service second to nobody.

As a side note the McKinley is easily as solidly built as the Meostar too.  Choices, choices....


Your review is great Klamath.  I particularly like, and agree with your statement on the SLC HD's.  I've been fiddling with mine for a few hours today.  While the SLC HD is a 10x42, and the McKinley is an 8x42, the image differences are very minor. The SLC is slightly more crisp, and resolution maybe a little better, but the McKinley's image is fantastic for sure.  A little better than the GR HD which is also fantastic.  I'm very impressed with the build quality also.   
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: February/23/2013 at 23:06
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Thanks for the review! These might be my next pair of binos. I'm using some of the original Mojaves now and the narrow field of view is sometimes bothersome but pretty sharp. If I can get an edge on my competition trying to see the scoring rings on the 3d animals in archery tournaments they would be worth the upgrade. Smile
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: February/25/2013 at 12:25
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  I just bought the 10x version and I am very pleased with them.  It is great that binoculars like this are available for $600!
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: February/26/2013 at 13:01
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I finally have had the opportunity to sit down to put together some thoughts on these bins after a few days of use. I am just going to start this from scratch without going back and re-reading what Steve posted above. Some of it may be redundant with his comments as a result.

Let me start off by saying that I like this binocular. I really do. Really impressive in such a variety of different ways. As I always do though I want to start off with optical performance. Why not? When it comes to whether or not a binocular is a "keeper" it really does just boil down to how it performs optically overall and also in comparison to other binoculars that the individual has on hand. I do not have any "alpha" binoculars in my current selection to compare it to but I think Steve did a very nice job of comparing it to its primary competition either in terms of performance or price.

So, here is what stands out to me when I look through these binoculars:
 


Sweet Spot

Huuuuuggggeee! Really Big. Practically edge to edge when all things are considered. For the average binocular user it will appear as if the apparent sharpness does stretch from one edge of the field of view to the other. Really impressive. There are only a handful of binoculars on the current market that you can say this about (Swarovision, Nikon SE and EDG to name a few). What makes it more impressive is that this model (and one other competitor) are able to stretch that flat, wide sweet spot over an 8 degree (420 foot) field of view. (8x42 model)

Closer inspection reveals some slightly different results. As I have often found with many binoculars with a field flattener element though the apparent sharpness is not necessarily consistent from one edge to the next. The central "sweet spot" is a good 70-75% of the field of view. Then there is a small "band" around the next 10-15% of the field of view where apparent sharpness falls off ever so slightly. I would have a hard time putting a specific percentage on the amount of degradation but it truly is minimal. You have to look for it to see it. The remaining 15-20% of the field of view is just as sharp as the central "sweet spot".
 

Digibinned pics handheld through the McKinley with my Iphone. Take note of the edge performance.

Chromatic Aberration (color fringing)

Because of the extra low dispersion glass element located in the objective design this binocular excels at reducing chromatic aberration throughout a huge portion of the field of view. My "litmus test" for this is to stare at the top edge of a mountain ridge and then move the binocular up and down so that the ridge "edge" moves through the entire field of view. With most "well-corrected" binoculars CA is well controlled within the sweet spot but does show up at varying degress outside of the sweet spot.

That is the case here with the McKinley.

The "kicker" though is that the sweet spot is so wide on the model. CA is practically absent throughout the entire sweet spot. In the small "ring" where sharpness falls off slightly CA is still well controlled and no worse than in the central sweet spot. In that last 10-15% of the field of view where apparent sharpness returns to the same level as the center then I can see CA along the ridge but it is very well controlled. I would rate it at close to the same level as the Zeiss FL of similar configuration.

Apparent Brightness

I would rate this model as excellent in this area....particularly in low light situations. When we refer to "apparent" brightness it is not just referring to measured light transmission levels but rather when a variety of factors such as contrast influence how we perceive the brightness levels of the image presented. The brightest roof prism model I have owned/tried was the Zeiss FL. I don't have one on hand to compare it to but I would be surprised if the FL produced a brighter image in anything but extreme low light conditions.

Apparent sharpness

As most individuals that frequent this forum are aware, even 8x binoculars are able to deliver more detail than our eyes are capable of seeing. Still, I think even an untrained eye can pick up on when a given binocular model is "less than sharp". Taking that a step further there are a few binocular models on the market that deliver an image which makes us feel as if we are seeing as much detail as we want...and then even a bit more. I hold no reservation in saying that this is one such model.

Case in point, as I type this I am occasionally looking out at an oak tree about 50 yards away. With the McKinleys focused on the bark of the tree I can see every minute detail...the contour and text of the bark, the small bits of moss growing at various spots, the subtle graduations of where one section of the trunk melds into the next. Really quite impressive.

To take it a step further I am also looking at a Turkey Vulture as it soars along the mountain ridge that I referenced earlier. The ridge itself is well over a mile away and yet the shape and detail of the bird is easily apparent as I focus the binocular.

Color bias and representation

For a variety of reasons many binoculars display what I refer to as a "color bias". Those reasons could include such things as the type of reflectivity coating utilized on the roof prism, the light transmission levels and the choice of antireflectivity coatings utilized throughout the entire binocular. To my eyes the McKinley is entirely neutral in color representation. I detect neither a warm (reddish-yellow) or cold (blue or green) color bias. Even when looking down the objective end with a white piece of paper in front of the ocular lenses I can detect no additional color.

The colors themselves are rich and well saturated. Reds are very red. Blues are very Blue.

Apparent Contrast

Again, I can find nothing to fault in this area. Contrast seems particularly good. Blacks and whites are in stark contrast to one another. Even the other night when looking up at the moon it seemed to almost be "alive" because of the level of contrast represented between it and the surrounding space.

Ergonomics

No complaints with regard to the ergonomics. This is a traditional hinge model with thumb indents placed under the barrels. As you will see in one of the pics I attached I have no concerns with the placement or depth of the thumb indents. My index finger fits neatly on the focus knob with the middle and ring fingers across the central hinge and the pinky wrapped around the front end of the barrel.
 


Furthermore, the texture of the rubber armoring is very comfortable to hold. It has a small amount of texture added to it which, though comfortable, still allows you to obtain a very secure grib. I would have a difficult time believing that this binoculars would slip out of your hand even under wet conditions.

The focus knob itself is large but not obtrusive.
 


I do not have an issue with the length or weight. The McKinleys seem to be of average length for most 42 mm models. The weight is definitely there but I would not call it excessive. It is well balanced and certainly lighter than some of the 42 mm models I remember owning in the past (thinking Leica Trinovid, Meopta Meostar, Swarovski SLC, etc...)

Mechanica
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: February/26/2013 at 15:05
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Wow FrankD!  You and Klamath blew the doors off!  I own the 8x42 myself and can't even attempt to add anything that you guys have not expressed.  I agree 100% with your nitpick.....ocular/eyecup is large, like the GR HD, and the pros of this glass are as you guys say.  The only thing i can add is, after 2-3 days of comparing them to my nephew's GR HD, is the Mckinley is better, and that's saying something because the GR HD is really, really great stuff.  The McKinley takes a very slight backseat to my SLC HD's, but you have to really nitpick to see the advantages.  They are quite small.  When I get some winged eyecups on the Mckinley............
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: February/26/2013 at 15:51
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Originally posted by JGRaider JGRaider wrote:

When I get some winged eyecups on the Mckinley............

JG

I'd try to get hold of some Nikon EDG style accessory winged eye guards.  You will have to carefully remove the eubber coverings of the eye cups, you may need a scalpel like Havalon knife.  The Nikons can then be made to fit.

I did the same kind of "fix" on the ZEN Prime HD.  Posted a DIY and pics here-

http://www.birdforum.net/showthread.php?t=245340

The field optics style are close to not being large enough in diameter to work like they should.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: February/26/2013 at 16:24
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I remember seeing your post Klamath.  The ones I used on my Gr HD were the Field Optics Research.   I'm wondering if the spotting scope sized eyecup from FOR would be better?  Thanks for the tip.   

Just looked over your link.......looks like a good fix.  You've got some cahones' though cutting up good glass like that. Big Smile  That o'ring trick is the ticket ain't it?  I use the exact same setup on my SLC HD's.  
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: February/26/2013 at 17:08
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Originally posted by JGRaider JGRaider wrote:

I remember seeing your post Klamath.  The ones I used on my Gr HD were the Field Optics Research.   I'm wondering if the spotting scope sized eyecup from FOR would be better?  Thanks for the tip.   

Just looked over your link.......looks like a good fix.  You've got some cahones' though cutting up good glass like that. Big Smile  That o'ring trick is the ticket ain't it?  I use the exact same setup on my SLC HD's.  

Not much courage required.  Just be careful (and a little patient)  and you just have the rubber eye cups sitting there in your hand separated from the overall metal eye assembly.  Don't like the fix?  Then a little contact cement and you are back to standard in a wink.

If the field optics kind worked on the GR, then they should work OK on the McKinley.  The problem is the wings wanting to flare out too parallel and not being long enough.  They seemed like they fit better under the extended eye cup.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: February/26/2013 at 18:34
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Excellent addition Frank. I also noted the "ring" you spoke of in the incredibly similar Zen Prime HD, and the Caldera. This ring is absent in the Meopta I referenced above. I described it as edge softening, but it did sharpen right back up at the very edge.

You mentioned great CA control. I know Steve did not see CA in the Prime, but I noticed it quite easily in the specimen I looked at even in the sweet spot, except at the center FOV.

It seems the McKinley and Prime are sisters, but not twin sisters.

It looks like another excellent option.

Thanks Steve and Frank both.
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Originally posted by Bitterroot Bulls Bitterroot Bulls wrote:

Excellent addition Frank. I also noted the "ring" you spoke of in the incredibly similar Zen Prime HD, and the Caldera. This ring is absent in the Meopta I referenced above. I described it as edge softening, but it did sharpen right back up at the very edge.

You mentioned great CA control. I know Steve did not see CA in the Prime, but I noticed it quite easily in the specimen I looked at even in the sweet spot, except at the center FOV.

It seems the McKinley and Prime are sisters, but not twin sisters.

It looks like another excellent option.

Thanks Steve and Frank both.

The ring looks like field curvature to me.  While it is not big, I can focus it out.  The edge sharpness I think is the characteristic of whatever level of pincushion distortion there is.  I don't think that it is very much.  I'm tempted to be glad for the little bit of curvature because it may be enough the abate whatever rolling ball effects that might be lurking.

I think the sisters analogy is a good one.  It seems to me Leupold is trying to dress their sibling to look more like the Gold Ring.
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Originally posted by Klamath Klamath wrote:


The ring looks like field curvature to me.  While it is not big, I can focus it out.  
I was able to also, but then the center would be just off a little, and that is where it counts, IMO. 
 
It was most prevalent in the Calderas, but wasn't terrible in any.
 
Those top end Chinese bins are really coming along.  The Prime build quality gave up little to nothing to the SLC neu.  Very impressive at the price point.
 
BTW,
 
How was depth of field?
 
The Prime was a bit shallower than the SLC neu, and definitely required a little more focussing.
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Originally posted by Klamath Klamath wrote:

If the field optics kind worked on the GR, then they should work OK on the McKinley.  The problem is the wings wanting to flare out too parallel and not being long enough.  They seemed like they fit better under the extended eye cup.


Right.  To negate that on the GR I wrapped some electrical tape in between the bottom of the eyecup and top of barrel like we do with the o-rings.  Then I put the wings over the tape so they don't flare.  I like 'em down there because they're still long enough to do their job, and by being below the eyecup you can fold 'em down and still use the eyepiece covers .
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Originally posted by Bitterroot Bulls Bitterroot Bulls wrote:

Originally posted by Klamath Klamath wrote:


The ring looks like field curvature to me.  While it is not big, I can focus it out.  
I was able to also, but then the center would be just off a little, and that is where it counts, IMO. 
 
It was most prevalent in the Calderas, but wasn't terrible in any.
 
Those top end Chinese bins are really coming along.  The Prime build quality gave up little to nothing to the SLC neu.  Very impressive at the price point.
 
BTW,
 
How was depth of field?
 
The Prime was a bit shallower than the SLC neu, and definitely required a little more focussing.

That's what always happens with field curvature.  It never can be all focused out.  It is of insignificant magnitude to matter much.

The depth of focus is MUCH better in the current Prime than the first run, MUCH better, particularly with the 10x.  Depth is maybe a little better in the McKinley, but there is a bit sharper edge there than the Prime.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: January/16/2014 at 12:58
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New to the forum. I just ordered the 10 x 42 Mckinley's from Company. Excellent buy at $400
Very much looking forward to getting them. It has been very interesting reading everyones
thoughts here, can't wait to try them out.
 
Please remeber to follow the rules that you agreed to when signing up for OpticsTalk.
 
Originally posted by Chris Farris Chris Farris wrote:

3. Do not advertise other retailers selling the same or similar products as SWFA, this includes posting links to other retailers for products sold by SWFA. SWFA does not provide this forum as a vehicle to redirect customers to our competition.



Edited by Skylar McMahon - January/16/2014 at 13:24
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: January/17/2014 at 22:59
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Great reviews! Love the mckinley, its a great set of bins

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Any news yet on the new model McKinleys?

Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: September/14/2014 at 17:00
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I just got a new version McKinley 8x42.  I will get some better information up when I can.  In short, the new one looks like they put the original on the Plan Z diet.  There is about a 10% overall size reduction due to moving the diopter to the center focus knob and much reducing the amount of rubber armor.  The most significant size reduction is in the eye cups.  Any standard x42 mm rain guard will now fit.  The rain guard of the original fits the new one kind of like a little kid wearing dad's Stetson.  

The ergonomic distinctions are HUGE.  While the new one is only 2 oz lighter, at 30 oz., the heft feels more like 26.  The size reduction feels more than the measurable 10% as well.  

The eye cups will now fit a lot more people than the original ever hoped to.  I have shown both versions to several people and all think the new one is a lot better binocular.  That HAS to be strictly due to ergonomics.  The optics remain the same.

The rubber armor has the same design as the original, and the new one lacks the huge thumb indents.

I would be completely at ease using this new version as my only binocular.  You can spend more if you want to, but I can't see the need.
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Originally posted by Klamath Klamath wrote:

I just got a new version McKinley 8x42.  I will get some better information up when I can.

Looking forward to your review. Thunbs Up
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